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Colorectal Cancer Screening: What Are Your Options?

Read Time: 3 minutes

Fit test kit with instructions spread out on a table

Colorectal cancer forms in the colon or rectum and is the third most common diagnosed cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society report Cancer Facts and Figures 2024, approximately 4,100 individuals in the Mountain West will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2024.

Screening Recommendations

Huntsman Cancer Institute recommends all individuals start regular colorectal cancer screenings at age 45. Colorectal cancer screenings help detect colon and rectal cancer early when it is easier to treat. 

The right test for you depends on your preferences, medical condition, and personal or family history, among other things.

Talk to your doctor about what cancer screenings are right for you. Screening recommendations differ if you have higher-than-average risk and a family history of colorectal cancer.

Tests By a Doctor

Doctor holding colonoscopy scope

A colonoscopy uses a camera to look for growths inside your colon. You do this screening at a clinic or hospital. It requires two days of preparation and recovery and is normally done every 10 years.


A colonoscopy requires a trip to a clinic or hospital and usually takes about 30–60 minutes. A thorough cleansing of the colon and rectum is required before the test. This means diet changes and medication adjustments.

Most people experience little to no discomfort after their colonoscopy, but you may experience side effects that include abdominal cramping or bloating, drowsiness, light bleeding, or moderate hunger. Because of sedation used during the procedure, you will need someone to drive you home.

A colonoscopy is the most accurate  test available to detect colorectal cancer, as the doctor can view the entire rectum and colon and remove polyps (abnormal growths) for testing. Colon polyps are common in adults and harmless in most cases. However, most colon cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer.

Your colonoscopy results normally take a few days to a week to arrive. You may need more testing and even treatment depending on your results. Due to recent updates of cancer screening recommendations and demand, you may experience a significant wait period to schedule and receive a colonoscopy.

Tests at Home

  1. A fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit looks for blood in your stool. You do this test at home every year. There is no preparation or recovery.
  2. A DNA FIT looks for colon cancer DNA in your stool. You do this test at home every three years. There is no preparation or recovery.

At-home stool tests

The screening requires just a few minutes and must be returned within 48 hours. At-home tests need to be completed more frequently than a colonoscopy.

A FIT test should be completed annually, and the DNA FIT, once every three years. The kit has all the supplies you need to do the test from the comfort of your own home. There is no preparation or recovery.

At-home tests have a high accuracy rate for diagnosing colorectal cancer. They detect hidden blood in the stool when you may not have any symptoms. Regular screening gives you the best chance of colorectal cancer being found early.

If an at-home test result is positive, this means that you have small amounts of blood in your stool. You may not have colorectal cancer however, a positive test indicates that you should contact a doctor for additional tests, such as a colonoscopy. If the test is negative, there is no detected blood in your stool. After your negative result, your provider will recommend that you repeat an at-home test each year.

Additional Considerations

If you have an increased risk of colon cancer, your doctor might recommend earlier, more frequent screening. Talk with your doctor if any of the following are true:

  • You are 45 or older.
  • You have a family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
  • You experience inflammatory bowel disease or Lynch Syndrome.

Our team at the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic helps you learn about your personal or family health history.

Choosing a colon cancer screening test may not be an easy decision, but it is a potentially lifesaving one. Consult your doctor about your colon cancer screening options and other recommended cancer screenings

Cancer touches all of us.